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The Resilience Builder

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The Energizer:

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

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  • Eileen McDargh

Improvise To Strategize



I am a firm believer that at some point we all must go to the college MSU—Making Stuff Up. When you can’t figure out what action to take try something—anything. As long as you keep the action on a short leash with a short feedback loop and it’s neither illegal nor immoral… proceed!

Example: My husband and I were part of a management team that had been awarded a major government contract. Tension was high as we beat out the incumbent contractor with the 750-page RFP I wrote. We were not greeted with open arms except by the employees on base who really did not like working for that contractor.




We were regarded with suspicion and—as if to challenge us even more—given an incredibly short time frame to turn the MWR (Morale Welfare & Recreation) components around. We needed all the resiliency and energy we could muster—and it had to be conveyed to some 250 plus employees in a matter of three weeks.

The answer: Strawberries.


You see, during our intake interviews, we found out from many of the employees that they were constantly kept in the dark, treated poorly, and talked down to. We’re like mushrooms, one manager told me. And you know what mushrooms are covered with!


Some angel on my shoulder must have opened my mouth because I heard myself say, We believe in strawberries. They only grow in bright light and each berry is part of an integrated entire plant.


That was it. All of us wore strawberry pins. We published a fast newspaper called “Strawberry Shorts” with each department talking about their new vision. The goal was to have everyone market and talk about all the base community functions—boosting up each other.


That improvisation became something that none of us would have dreamt possible—a desired future we could not have imagined.


Embedded in that strawberry story are the last two resiliency skills: laugh-ability and alignment. These skills are what makes the journey meaningful and dare I say, even fun.

This excerpt is from Your Resiliency GPS: A Guide for Growing through Life and Work and is available at Amazon.





P.S. It makes a great gift!

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